1. TheSorcererOfTime
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    TheSorcererOfTime New Member

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    Can't even come up with a plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TheSorcererOfTime, Dec 7, 2014.

    I can't even come up with a plot for my various writings. The first book for my sci-fi series isn't a problem because it's just a heavily changed version of a fanfiction I wrote and it's just a simple love story. But both of the other series I want to write I can't come up with a plot for even the first book. I've thought of some plot points for one of them, such as the overarching villain for the entire series, how the hero and another character get captured at the end of the first book and how he breaks out. I know what I want for the plot, but I can't figure out how to get there.

    What I really suck at is "planning", the schemes and plans of both the heroes and the villains.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My first thought is to suggest abandoning the idea of a series. Coming up with a plot for a single book, and writing a single book, is already a huge task. Why commit to a series? Especially, why commit to three series?
     
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  3. TheSorcererOfTime
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    TheSorcererOfTime New Member

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    Because I'm already in love with all the things I've built on them, the characters, the cultures, the powers, the setting as a whole, what ideas of the plots I've come up with.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's fine--you could take notes on those things and file them away where you're sure not to lose them. And then you could choose just one of those ideas, and try to come up with a self-contained plot for just one book, without worrying even a little bit about "saving" bits for a series. Pour all the good, dramatic, exciting stuff and satisfying conclusion into ONE book.
     
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  5. TheSorcererOfTime
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    TheSorcererOfTime New Member

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    Really that doesn't appeal to me because I've always preferred series over single self-contained works. And IDK what else I would do with my life. Being a professional writer is exactly what I want to do with my life, so I might as well create the series I dream of.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's essentially impossible for a new author to sell a series, so if you want to be traditionally published, your first book will have to be self-contained anyway. And I don't know of many readers that like a book that ends on a cliffhanger, so even if you self-publish (which I wouldn't recommend) the book should be satisfying on its own. So I think that your first book is going to have to be self-contained anyway.
     
  7. TheSorcererOfTime
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    TheSorcererOfTime New Member

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    All of them except maybe ones that I'm not writing until a good way into the series definitely aren't cliffhangers. Is that what you mean by self-contained?
     
  8. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    By self-contained, I'm sure, @ChickenFreak means something the sense: the books are complete and standalone, requiring no further development.

    If one writes to write a series, then, likely, some major plot functions and world and character building will likely take place beyond the first novel in the series. In this, if one reads only the first novel, then one doesn't interact with the full story. Thus, the work isn't standalone.

    Does this make sense? (I worry for my clarity, as I really ought not be awake at this time -- and my boding won't let me forget.)

    Also, I don't mean to be some home-wrecker, but making money off writing is difficult. It ain't your normal difficult, either. Predominately, income from writing will likely supplement one's bacon-bringer. Point: one likely needs a day job.

    I'm not saying stop, but understand what you're approaching. Don't think the snake some curly-cue'd stick.
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've actually found it really hard to NOT sell a series, even when I wanted to just write one book. Might just be in my genre (romance and YA romance), but readers seem to like series, and publishers know that.

    But it's your first book that you sell first, and ChickenFreak is right that the first book should work as a stand-alone. Like, the book should have its own main conflict and that should be resolved by the end of the book. If someone wanted to stop reading there, they could, without feeling unsatisfied.

    I got my agent based on a single book, but then when we go out on submission I write up a list of possible sequel ideas in the same universe. Maybe a paragraph per book or so.

    So I'd suggest you figure out the plot of your first book, write it, polish it, submit it, and go from there. You don't need to know the details of every single book in the series, but you do need to know the details of the first book!
     
  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    My advice would be to just write the series in your own spare time. You clearly are in love with them, so don't abandon them yet. Now, if you were to publish a book, I think ChickenFreak said it best: you'd be better off writing a standalone book. Publishers cringe at new writers who want to jump off writing whole series. You can do a lot of standalone books, writers do that all the time.

    But even if it were a series, you need to concentrate on Book #1 first. Don't worry about Book #2 or Book #7.
     
  11. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is this 'publishers don't want series' thing legit? As I said, it's contrary to my experience, and I see quite a few new writers writing series...

    Where are you hearing/reading/experiencing this, Link and ChickenFreak?
     
  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It's what I've read on this forum.
     
  13. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It is possible to write a book one in a series that can stand alone, though. I've personally read a few such books, an example being Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve.
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    If I'm not mistaken, was the first Harry Potter book meant to be a stand-alone?
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It does stand alone, IMO; it resolves its primary conflicts and is perfectly satisfying on its own.

    But I would agree that it has bigger, more obvious pointers to a series than, say, The Hobbit, which IMO really doesn't inspire much, "Hey, what's next?" The Hobbit would be just fine without The Lord of The Rings.

    There are also two definitions of "series", IMO. There are series that consists of a bunch of books about the same characters, where each book is essentially self-contained, and you could jump in in the middle and be perfectly content, as long as you don't care about the fact that you're giving yourself possible spoilers for earlier books in the series. And there are series that leave substantial unresolved issues. I would say that most murder mystery series fit the first definition (to the extent that I was VERY ANNOYED that a recent book in a favorite mystery series did end with a cliffhanger), and that fantasy and science fiction series tend to fit the second.

    I'm trying to remember how many series that fit the second definition have a first book that is not satisfying on its own.

    Experiencing, not at all. :) I still have no personal experience in this area. I'm hearing and reading, and I'm trying but so far failing to find where, other than this forum, I read it. I do remember seeing it on more than one advice-for-authors website, but until I can actually find them that doesn't have all that much value.

    However, I think that we may be saying almost, though not quite, the same thing. I'm not saying that I've ever seen advice that the publishers want to ensure that they never see those characters and world again! or anything like that. In fact, I've seen advice that publishers do, indeed, want to know if the writer is prepared to go on and create more; why invest so much in an author who will create only a single book when they could invest in one that could pay off that investment with lots of books?

    But in this thread, with the "captured at the end of the book", we seem to be talking about a book that has no value unless it is part of a series, and that's what I've always understood is unacceptable for a first book for a new author.

    Where I say 'not quite' the same thing, I'm referring to the fact that I have seen advice that a new author absolutely shouldn't be trying to sell a series, but should instead be clearly trying to sell a book, and the fact that more books may follow shouldn't be a primary factor in the author's presentation--it should be downplayed. It sounds like your experience is that the promise of more books is important and it shouldn't be downplayed.
     
  16. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with the two-different-kinds-of-series idea. And all the books I've sold have been suitable as stand-alones, for sure.

    I guess what we're really talking about here isn't so much how to attract a publisher, but how to attract an agent. I mean, if someone plans to self-publish, they can write a series as long as they want, with whatever kind of endings to individual books they care for. So 'the rules' only really apply if we're talking about going through a publisher, and unless you're writing in a niche genre it makes sense to start the publisher search with the big guys, and the big guys want agents, so...

    What do agents want to see? I think the old "with series potential" line is a good one. The author isn't a one-trick pony who can only ever conceive of writing in this one universe, but at the same time s/he's flexible enough to be willing to write more if the publisher/market demands.

    And, of course, "series potential" isn't really an accurate way to represent a book that's got a cliff-hanger ending - "series mandatory" probably doesn't demonstrate the same level of flexibility on the author's part!

    So, I agree that we mostly agree; I would just question the idea that publishers don't want series from new authors - in my experience, they seem to want them a lot!
     
  17. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't been there, so my comments are without experience, but I just can't see the usefulness of intricate plotting over several books in a series. One thing I've learned though, and that this is by moving forward, ideas change dramatically. What makes sense on a macro scale, starts looking stupid or trite whenI write it. You'll need to change something that you thought was the be all and end all of ideas. Write.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2014
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  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    One advantage of at least some level of pre-planning for the entire series is that you can change things in the first book to match what's needed later on. Imagine writing a regular novel and deciding that you wouldn't make any changes to the first half once you started working on the second half!

    I've been lucky in that I write fairly quickly, so I can sell a series based on the first book and an outline for later books, then write the later books before the first book is published. I know they're sold so I'm not wasting my time on something that will never be published, but at the same time I can make changes to the first book as needed. Best of both worlds, really.
     
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  19. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    I didn't mean for my statements to suggest this impossible.
     
  20. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Neither did I mean that you suggested that it was impossible. I just wanted to clarify that it was possible, though hard to pull off.
     
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  21. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You don't have a plot - which means you don't really have a story - for even one book and you're hoping to make a series out of that?

    Yes, I understand writing a series is what you want, but here's a prime example of wanting to run before you can even walk. You don't have enough story to fill one book. What on earth makes you think you can even write a series of books based on this without dragging things and writing like a universe-full of fillers?

    I don't mean to sound discouraging, but until you know how to write a standalone novel, you quite simply don't have the skill to write a series. This doesn't necessarily mean you cannot embark on writing a series - you can do whatever you please - but the journey would be that much harder.

    But, even with that aside, quite simply, until you have enough story to fill just one book, you don't have enough to write to fill a whole series.
     
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